Every year at the holidays, families gather around the table for re-connecting and renewing familial bonds. It isn’t long before Grandma wants to know why her grandson, Kevin, hasn’t “settled down” with that nice gal that he’s been seeing for close to two years now, and recounting the story of how she met Grandpa and married him within six months.
While Grandma may be jumping the gun on wedding bells (or maybe just itching for great-grandchildren), she is on to something: Millennials (those born after 1982) are waiting longer to get married, start families and put down roots. A 2014 Pew Research Center Survey found that just 26 percent of Millennials were married. However, just because Millennials aren’t marrying as young as their parents’ and grandparents’ generations don’t mean that Millennials aren’t cohabitating or having children. Rather, they are doing these things outside the conventional legal structure, which can create headaches and heartaches in the event of an untimely death or a sudden falling out, both for the surviving family members as well as the surviving Millennial roommate or romantic partner.
In Illinois, funeral expenses are paid first and then any debts or obligations to creditors out of any funds in the decedent’s estate. After creditors and funeral expenses have been paid, unless a person dies married, in a civil union, or with an estate plan, the decedent’s property passes to the decedent’s family, typically to children, parents and siblings, regardless of the decedent’s wishes or plans. In order to pay for funeral expenses and pay any debts or creditor obligations, a Millennial has to have the funds available at his or her death to make those payments. Most Millennials don’t have significant savings or even a life insurance policy to cover their own burial. If Millennials don’t have enough funds at death to pay off their funeral expenses and creditor obligations, anyone who co-signed those obligations is responsible for paying them off.
It’s one thing, of course, as a parent to have co-signed with your Millennial for the purchase of a car or to help them get a credit card. It’s a whole different issue if your Millennial is the co-signor left holding the debt after tragedy takes their cohabitant or co-owner. Consider that depending on how the asset is titled, your Millennial may not even have possession of the asset!